Pakistan’s National Youth Carnival brings madrassa, mainstream students together

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A student at a singing competition during the National Youth Carnival 2017 in Peshawar on Monday. (AN photo)
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A student at a painting competition during the National Youth Carnival 2017 at Peshawar Sports Complex. (AN photo)
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A traditional Qehwa stall at the National Youth Carnival 2017 at Peshawar Sports Complex. (AN photo)
Updated 12 December 2017

Pakistan’s National Youth Carnival brings madrassa, mainstream students together

PESHAWAR: Monday’s rain failed to dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd gathered at the Peshawar Sports Complex to enjoy the National Youth Carnival 2017 — also attended this year by madrassa students.
“The annual event was launched in 2013, and each year we try to improve it,” Mohammed Usman from Liaison Corp., which is managing the event, told Arab News.
“This year, we decided to include madrassa students because they’re considered a deprived segment of society, and they normally have few opportunities of this kind.”
The carnival, which started on Dec. 8, is the biggest extra-curricular activity for youth in Pakistan, he said.
Shahid Amin, a teacher at Jamiat-ur-Rashid in Karachi, said 21 students from the madrassa are participating in 14 categories.
“This is the first time we participate in such an event. Our students are competing in categories such as painting, calligraphy, qirat, na’at, essay writing and others,” he told Arab News.
Amin lauded Peshawar’s hospitality, and encouraged more madrassas to participate in such events.
Student Rehmat Wali, who is participating in an essay-writing competition, told Arab News that there should be such a competition in Arabic too since most madrassa students know the language.
Saddam Khan, a student at Abasyn University, said each of the 30 categories is being managed by five or six volunteers, most of them university students.
Asfandyar Khattak, director of youth affairs in the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), said the carnival selection trials for candidates began on Oct. 5, and 13,000 students took part in the preliminary competitions. He added that 1,100 students are now participating at the provincial and national levels.
Besides accessing regular schools and colleges, an online form was made available, through which 350 private students applied for the carnival, Khattak said, adding that 17 madrassas were invited to participate.
“Most of the madrassa students are participating in qirat, na’at, calligraphy, painting and essay writing in different languages,” he told Arab News.
It is a great opportunity to promote extra-curricular activities and integrate madrassa students into mainstream activities, he said, adding that the event is improving with each passing year.
“Last year we conducted competitions in 26 categories. This year there are 30. We plan to include oral and written competitions in Arabic next year, since most madrassa students are adept at the language,” he said.
Sports Minister Mehmood Khan and KPK Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser said the provincial government spent 65 million Pakistani rupees ($593,450) on the event. Prizes worth 5 million Pakistani rupees are being given to competition winners, they added.
Youth from member states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) — comprising Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka — will be invited to next year’s event, Qaiser said.


UN: Possible to eradicate malaria, but probably not soon

Updated 32 min 19 sec ago

UN: Possible to eradicate malaria, but probably not soon

  • Dr. Pedro Alonso, the UN health agency’s global malaria director, said WHO is “unequivocally in favor” of eradication
  • An eradication campaign was first attempted in 1955 before being abandoned more than a dozen years later

LONDON: The World Health Organization says it’s theoretically possible to wipe out malaria, but probably not with the flawed vaccine and other control methods being used at the moment.
Dr. Pedro Alonso, the UN health agency’s global malaria director, said WHO is “unequivocally in favor” of eradication, but that major questions about its feasibility remain. In a press briefing on Thursday, Alonso acknowledged that “with the tools we have today, it is most unlikely eradication will be achieved.”
Alonso was presenting the results of a WHO-commissioned report evaluating if eradicating malaria should be pursued. He said the experts concluded lingering uncertainties meant they were unable to formulate a clear strategy and thus, couldn’t propose a definitive timeline or cost estimate for eradication.
WHO has long grappled with the idea of erasing malaria from the planet. An eradication campaign was first attempted in 1955 before being abandoned more than a dozen years later. For decades, health officials were chastened from even discussing eradication — until the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation threw its considerable resources behind the idea.
Smallpox is the only human disease to ever have been eradicated. In 1988, WHO and partners began a global campaign that aimed to wipe out polio by 2000. Despite numerous effective vaccines and billions of invested dollars, efforts have stalled in recent years and officials have repeatedly missed eradication targets.
Although several African countries began immunizing children against malaria in national programs this year, the shot only protects about one third of children who get it. The parasitic disease kills about 435,000 people every year, mostly children in Africa.
“An effective vaccine is something we desperately need if we’re ever going to get malaria under control and we just don’t have it,” said Alister Lister, dean of biological sciences at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.
Lister also raised concerns about whether malaria programs would be able to raise the billions needed given other competing eradication campaigns, like those for polio, guinea worm and lymphatic filariasis.
“Should we really be pushing for malaria or should we concentrate on getting some of those other diseases out of the way first?” he asked.
Other experts agreed that eradicating malaria in the coming years seems aspirational.
“It’s a long game and there will be many bumps on the road,” said Sian Clarke, co-director of the malaria center at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Still, Clarke said that eradication might only be achieved if there is a sense of urgency, given how malaria spreads; the parasitic disease is transmitted to people by mosquitoes.
“The longer it takes, the more opportunity there is for the parasite to evolve,” she said. “There will be a lot of pressure on the parasite to evolve a mechanism of survival, so this is something that if it’s to be done, should be done relatively quickly.”